Faceoff: Wild continue up-and-down season
FELDY:Phersy, our Minnesota Wild stumbled in their first game out of the Christmas break. They dropped a bunch of coal in their fans' stockings by stinking up The X in a loss to Sid Crosby and the Penguins. But the Wild bounced back with a solid 3-1 win against Detroit, a game that could have been 5-1. Considering the difficulty of the Wild's schedule and the division they play in, is this what we should expect in the second half: A team capable of playing with anyone on a given night, but also capable of losing to anyone?
PHERSY:In the West, playing like that won't cut it, and it doesn't bode well for a deep postseason run. The consistency isn't there right now, and it starts in the back end. I don't get it Feldy. At times, the entire blue line looks incredible. Other times, they're disorganized and making Bantam-level mistakes. Will the real Minnesota Wild please stand up? The stinker against the Pens was quite frustrating. For long stretches during the first two periods, they couldn't hold the zone. And the power play was ugly all night. Then they bounce book and look phenomenal against Detroit. Good luck figuring out this squad right now.
FELDY:When the Wild have shown schizophrenic tendencies in past seasons, they've done so in long stretches. They've played well for six weeks then hit a three-week tailspin. When you don't know what you'll get from game to game, it definitely doesn't bode well for a long playoff run. There are still four months before we have to worry about that, though. For now, how concerned should we be about injuries to Zach Parise and Darcy Kuemper?
PHERSY:Parise is a concern. I don't think it's any secret Parise needs to be on the ice for this team to get where it wants to be this spring. There aren't many players in this league who make everyone around them better, but Parise has that ability. Kuemper concerns me more for the future than the present ... is he injury prone? Will they ever get a full season out of him? Right now, as long as Devan Dubnyk doesn't hit the skids, the Wild can survive without Kuemper. But boy, it would be nice to have him healthy and playing well down the stretch.
FELDY: They need to do whatever it takes to get Kuemper healthy for the stretch run and the postseason. They rode Devan Dubnyk for months at a time last season and may have to do so again. Without Kuemper on the four-game road trip that starts tonight, Dubnyk will have to power through four games in six nights or we'll see Nik Backstrom get a start, his first in close to a year. Having Backstrom as a third goalie is a nice option -- the Wild don't have to reach for an AHL goalie or sign someone off the street. But Backstrom is also an option I'm sure the Wild would rather not have to use.
PHERSY:He's an expensive third option, that's for sure. Having a quality backup is huge, because changing netminders can eliminate lengthy losing streaks when one goalie hits a rough patch. When Kuemper has been healthy and in the lineup, he's shown flashes of brilliance this season. But the Wild can't use him if he's not 100 percent, so my guess is they'll take it slow, even if Dubnyk struggles and they are forced to turn to Backstrom. I'm confident the goalie situation will play itself out. I'm more concerned about finding consistency up front. If there's been one knock on coach Mike Yeo, that's it. Finding consistency is a must, now. Trying to find it in the postseason won't work.